Gregor’s Packer Analysis
Week 14 Preview
In this issue:
Chicago heads to Denver
The Lions host the Vikings
The Packers are home against the Raiders
The Chicago Bears were rolling along and looking like they had a wild card well within reach. Then Jay Cutler has thumb surgery and is out for the year. Last week, Matt Forte hurt his knee and is out 2-6 weeks. Without a contract, that could mean six weeks. Well, actually 4 since it’s likely that once the regular season is done so are the Bears. Or it could mean he comes back early, show he’s a team guy, and hope to get rewarded in the off season.
The Broncos looked like they had no shot at the playoffs when they started out 1-4. But since they benched (and later cut) Kyle Orton, Tim Tebow has had much different results, going 6-1 as a starter. Right now, Denver leads the AFC West and would be in the playoffs. Much of it has to do with an improvement by the defense. And the Broncos can run the ball. But last week, Tebow showed he can throw the ball. He was 10 of 15 for 202 yards—20 yards per completion and a 67% completion percentage. Not much of a sample size and not a great secondary, but it was in an NFL regular season game.
The Bears managed just 3 points last week, and that was at home. The Broncos have played very good defense in recent weeks, except last week against Minnesota. But they showed a change in how they will use Tebow—less running and presumably more passing. The Bears have shown that Caleb Hanie can’t throw, and Marion Barber isn’t Forte.
The line is Denver by 3 and a half. That’s about right, most Denver wins are by 3. But if the Bears can’t score, and the Broncos will have a hard time moving the ball, this looks like a low scoring game. But 13-6 or 13-7 is still enough to cover. Denver by 6.
The Detroit Lions (7-5) host the Minnesota Vikings (2-10) in a rematch of the Week 3 game won 26-23 by Detroit. Early in the season, the Vikings had 3 straight weeks of double digit leads in the first half, only to find a way to lose. There have been a few changes since then. Donovan McNabb is no longer the starter and no longer with the team. Christian Ponder is now starting at quarterback. Each week, he shows promise. Each week he shows he’s a rookie. Adrian Peterson has missed several weeks with an ankle injury, and Toby Gerhardt is clearly not Adrian Peterson.
The Lions started the season 5-0, but have gone 2-5 since. In recent games against the Packers and Saints, they have shown a lack of focus and put their emotions ahead of the team, picking up personal fouls and suspensions. Over the last two season, Ndamukong Suh and Cliff Avril lead the league in personal foul penalties. Probably not a category you want to be leading. While Peterson is back for the Vikings, Ndamunong Suh won’t be playing Sunday, the second of a two game suspension.
The line is Detroit by 7. Matthew Stafford can light up the Minnesota secondary, Calvin Johnson can’t be covered, and Brandon Pettigrew, Nate Burleson and Titus Young are better options than Minnesota’s DBs. But Detroit can’t run very well, and Minnesota can. That can help with time of possession. This will be closer without Suh than if he was playing. Stafford has thrown 10 picks in his last 4 games, coincidentally he fractured his fingers a few weeks ago. But Ponder on the road can make mistakes. Lions by 8.
The undefeated Green Bay Packers (12-0) take on the Oakland Raiders (7-5) in a battle of division leaders at Lambeau Field. The game was pushed back to 3:15, a national TV game on CBS. It’s a week and a half into December, and weather probably won’t be a factor—Sunday should be dry and in the 30s. That means that all that can stop Aaron Rodgers is sacks and drops.
The Raiders have had a better than expected season even though they are missing some key players. The running game is missing “Run DMC”, Darren McFadden. But Michael Bush has filled in well. And Jacoby Ford is a playmaking receiver who hasn’t been playing. Yet Carson Palmer has found other receivers to pick up the slack.
The Packers played without key starters Desmond Bishop, AJ Hawk, and Josh Sitton. Charles Woodson and James Starks left last week due to injury, and Andrew Quarless joins Nick Collins and others on IR (now called the reserve-injured list). Quarless is obviously done for the year, Charles Woodson has been cleared to play (concussion), and the other injured players listed are not expected back this week except possibly AJ Hawk..
The real story is Aaron Rodgers. He hasn’t had a week with a quarterback rating below 110. It won’t happen this week either since the weather should be OK for passing. The big concern is the yards allowed all season by the defense, and the points allowed, especially last week. It’s the Air Coryell Chargers of the 80s, except with a Super Bowl trophy.
The Packers are 11 point favorites. There’s a reason the Packers are heavily favored—they’re better. But 11 points? The Raiders can move the ball on the ground, and Carson Palmer has had some good games this season. It won’t be enough to win, but they should stay within 10.